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My Parkinson's Journey

In which Terri shares a humorous look at her journey with Parkinson's disease and Dystonia:

For me, illness and health are not opposites but exist together. Everyone has something that is challenging to them. Mine just simply has a recognizable name. My life will take a different path because of this but that's okay. Everyone has changes in their lives that create their path.  I'm learning how to enjoy whatever path I'm on.

Menagerie

Terri Reinhart

6/19/2008  

I found another dreamer. Poppi confessed to me that she is thinking of buying some land so she can build a studio. She also recently bought sixteen chairs, SIXTEEN of them, to fix up and resell. She doesn’t have room for them so there are chairs everywhere, even in her entryway. Friends are asking her is she is moving. I can’t imagine her crocheting lace doilies. She has power tools.

In other words, she’s a gal after my own heart!

When Chris and I were first married, we talked about our hopes of buying land someday. We wanted room to have a small farm, grow our own vegetables, and have animals. We wanted our children to grow up around the natural world and for them to have real work to do. There is nothing like a farm to provide real work and plenty of it! We are now down to three rabbits and one guinea pig, but for a number of years, we were able to fulfill our dream of having our children grow up taking care of animals.

We were never able to buy a house with land in the country so we did the next best thing. We bought a house on nearly half an acre, in the middle of Wheat Ridge, Colorado. Wheat Ridge is a small city and a suburb of Denver. If we travel half a mile down the road, we cross into the city of Denver. But here in Wheat Ridge, we have a little oasis. It’s changing now, so people who move into the city can no longer have farm animals, but when we moved in to our neighborhood, the only animals that were not allowed were pigs.

That spring, when our sons were 7 and 9 years old, we invited a few of their friends over and went out to purchase ducklings. We bought three ducklings and brought them home in a box in the car. We nearly didn’t make it home. It made me wonder about the city rule that did not allow pigs. I had always heard it was because of their unique odor. I must tell you, pigs have nothing over ducklings where smell is concerned. We opened the windows and the boys all held their heads outside, plugging their noses and making rude comments that, I must admit, were terribly appropriate.

Once we were home, we went about preparing a place for the ducklings and for the chickens that arrived a week later. The chickens eventually multiplied, as did the ducks, and we also added geese. The geese were always my favorites. They are very sociable animals and loved to follow us around the yard as we did yard work, stopping when we stopped, looking up to us and chattering away. We talked back to them and, if anyone had looked, they might have been convinced we were having a real conversation. Maybe we were.

A couple of years later, my father gave me a goat for my birthday. I was thrilled and even more thrilled when I found out she was pregnant! A few months later, I found out I was pregnant, too, so it was a shared experience. We got grumpy together. That was the year of babies at our house. Chicks hatched out and one chicken sat on a duck egg and hatched a duckling. The poor hen about went crazy trying to teach that duckling how to scratch. She also had a hard time keeping him away from the water. In April, twin goats were born, both female. Now we had Blossom and Buttercup with Bonnie, their mom. We had dozens of chickens, ten ducks, two geese, three rabbits, and two dogs. Meal times were complicated as the ducks preferred dog food and the goats liked to steal the chicken eggs and eat the rabbit food.

Our daughter entered the menagerie…I mean family…in July, and we were kept very busy. It’s not surprising that she loves animals, too.

Eventually the goats had to find a new home as they became expert escape artists and when I discovered our elderly neighbor had been luring them back into their pen with dog biscuits when we were away, I figured it was time for them to find a farm.

When our daughter was in first grade, I decided that she needed an animal to ride. And the perfect animal for her wasn’t a pony, it was a miniature donkey. Stormy spent 7 years with us before she recently retired and found the good life on our friend’s ranch. She now has a best friend, a horse so tall that she can run under him easily.

At some point during this time, I visited my Aunt Margaret in a Milwaukee nursing home. She had been diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease about ten years earlier and now was dependent on others to take care of her. The Parkinson’s had also robbed her of her ability to speak. She still listened intently, though, and I wondered how much she was really taking in. I described our little farm and at one point admitted that my husband thought I was crazy. For the first and last time during our visit, my Aunt Margaret spoke.

She said, “I think he’s right.”

(Note to Poppi: GO FOR IT!)